8 Tech Turkeys For 2013

Let's Talk Turkey

Everyone's heard about Ben Franklin wanting the turkey to be the U.S. national bird. Well, it turns out that story is for the birds and has been making turkeys out of gullible believers for years. That's the way it is with tech industry turkeys, too.

Like clockwork, there are vendors, people and products that emerge in the IT industry every year that just baffle the heck out of people. And when you examine them, you end up with nothing but a handful of feathers, left shaking your head and muttering "what a turkey."

Following are CRN's 8 picks for this year's tech turkeys.

BlackBerry In Denial

Despite a gloomy financial outlook, acquisition rumors, and class action lawsuits from fed-up shareholders, the onetime enterprise mobile stalwart spent much of the year downplaying its problems.

In October, BlackBerry printed an open letter in more than 30 publications in 9 countries, assuring spooked customers and shareholders that "You can continue to count on BlackBerry."

A few weeks later, BlackBerry ended its bid to go private and took $1 billion in convertible debt financing from Fairfax Financial and other investors. BlackBerry Thorsten Heins also stepped down and was replaced on an interim basis by former Sybase CEO John Chen, followed by an executive shakeup.

Meanwhile, BlackBerry is fast becoming the mobile market's equivalent of the film 'Weekend At Bernie's." Only difference is, that was a comedy, and this is just a sad spectacle for a once-great company.

IBM's x86 Server Drama

In April, it emerged that IBM was in talks with Lenovo to sell off its x86 server business. The idea was to shed the low-margin, high-volume business and focus on more powerful and expensive servers. But IBM's price tag was too steep for Lenovo, and the deal never happened.

Sources told CRN at the time that IBM was asking between $5 billion and $6 billion for its x86 server business, and was not shopping it to any other company but Lenovo because of the competitive implications for the rest its business. Instead, IBM is left holding a unit it is clearly ready to part with because it was unable to come down enough in price to make a deal work.

Oracle's Cloud IaaS

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison (pictured) was slow to warm to this whole cloud computing thing. So when Oracle rolled out its cloud infrastructure-as-a-service in January, people were understandably skeptical. And as it turned out, they had good reason to feel this way, because Oracle's IaaS comes with all kinds of caveats.

First, customers have to sign a three-year contract to access Oracle IaaS. They also have to pay for software licenses outside the monthly fee Oracle charges for accessing the service. Ellison once called out Saleforce.com for not having a true cloud model on par with that of Amazon Web Services. Well, calling Oracle IaaS a cloud is certainly a case of elastic interpretation.

The Cisco-VMware Dog And Pony Show

Cisco and VMware have been partners for a long time. So after VMware bought Nicira, a network virtualization startup whose technology is very disruptive to Cisco and other networking players, both VMware and Cisco insisted that everything would remain hunky dory with their relationship.

Funny thing is, when VMware rolled out its NSX product in August, Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior (pictured) wasted no time in belittling the overlay approach as being too limited. When Cisco rolled out its Insieme strategy, VMware did not respond in kind, but the two clearly have very different views on how networking virtualization, or software-defined networking, is going to play out.

Cisco and VMware continue to perform their dog and pony show of pretending to be buddies, but in the channel at least, not many are buying it.

Microsoft's Surface Shenanigans

When Microsoft first unveiled its Surface device, some industry watchers saw it as a daring change of course. So what if Microsoft's OEM partners wouldn't like it, the thinking went. Surface tablets showed that Microsoft was sick of standing around while Apple ran roughshod over the mobile device market.

Well, in the end, it was Microsoft's channel partners that ended up being most frustrated. As is well known by now, Microsoft is not letting the vast majority of its partners sell Surface. Surely Microsoft has its reasons for not leveraging the marketing muscle of its huge channel, but those reasons remain unclear.

Which is there was a fair amount of schadenfreude in the Microsoft channel when Microsoft revealed a $900 million charge in July for unsold Surface inventory.


The extent of the U.S. National Security Agency's domestic surveillance campaign came to light in June, and the fallout is still spreading. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden shared documents with The Guardian that showed the NSA was snooping on, well, just about everyone, or at least it seemed.

According to the documents, the NSA had help from several technology companies in its surveillance campaign, and the agency tapped into global data centers maintained by Google and Yahoo. Oh, and the NSA has also cracked pretty much every Web encryption technology, so there's no security fix, either.

Microsoft, Apple Using Patents To Sue Google

When Google failed in its bid to obtain the considerable patent trove from the Nortel bankruptcy, losing out to a consortium of companies led by Microsoft and Apple, everyone knew that Google would eventually find itself on the business end of them.

Sure enough, that's what happened in early November, when the consortium, known as "Rockstar Bidco," sued Google for Android-related patent infringement. Rockstar is basically a patent troll, but because it's an independent company, it's a way for Microsoft and Apple to fight a proxy war against Google without having to get their hands dirty.

Carl Icahn

Activist investor Carl Icahn (pictured) fought hard for six months to oppose Michael Dell's plan to take his company private, and along the way there were many examples of Icahn's trademark tenacity. In March, Icahn told Dell's board of directors to expect "years of litigation" if it went ahead with its proposed leveraged buyout of $13.65 per share.

Icahn tried to convince investors to oust Michael Dell and other Dell board members and elect a board more closely aligned with his views, but the judge refused to hear the case. Icahn eventually gave up his fight against Dell's $24.8 billion leveraged buyout plan in October. He did manage to get Dell to raise its buyout price to $13.75 and add a special dividend of 13 cents per share.